Yoshihide "Yoshi" Muroya is one of the hardest working and most focused pilots in the Red Bull Air Race. And his dedication paid off with one of the biggest stories of the 2016 season when he clinched his first race win – and the first for his native Japan – in front of 90,000 home fans on a thrilling June weekend in Chiba. The first Asian pilot in the World Championship, Muroya has been instrumental in building the sport's popularity in the region, and he won't rest until he becomes World Champion.
Muroya started glider training as an 18-year-old university student, eventually claiming third place in Japan's glider championship. He earned his pilot's licence in the USA and studied aerobatics under renowned instructor Randy Gagne. On the way to becoming Japan's top aerobatics pilot, he participated in events including the Advanced World Aerobatic Championships, the World Aerobatic Championships and European Championships.
Muroya is also a passionate advocate of aviation and of Fukushima, his home since 1998. He's flown in hundreds of air shows to inspire spectators, and after Fukushima was rocked by a devastating earthquake in 2011, he was named a goodwill ambassador for the area. He continues to work toward Fukushima's recovery, and his persistence and mental toughness are an inspiration to residents.
Since joining the Red Bull Air Race in 2009, Muroya has introduced innovations ranging from pre-race Zazen meditation to a variety of raceplane innovations. He has claimed podiums in locations as diverse as Rovinj, Croatia; Ascot, UK; and Fort Worth, USA – but it was his dazzling 2016 triumph in Chiba that proved his true potential to take the title. As he pushed the boundaries in his powerful Edge 540 V3, the Japanese pilot made the elite Round of 8 in five of the seven complete races across the season; however he was thwarted by over-G penalties at several stops. He and Team Falken – which also includes team coordinator Robert Fry, race engineer Benjamin Freelove and technician Peter Conway – have learned from the experience to sharpen their focus for 2017.
"The racing in the Red Bull Air Race is really tight," Muroya acknowledges. "We've worked hard on refining the setup of the raceplane, and on our tactics through modifications to our computer system and simulator. In 2017 we are ready for more podiums and race wins and ultimately the Championship."